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'From the Streets to the Stage' highlights South LA krump dancing in live performance

Sage Gallon

The Underground performing at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center last year.

What started out as a short film intended to fulfill a graduate school requirement has turned into a street dance stage show touring locations throughout Southern California.

"The Underground: From the Streets to the Stage" is an hour-long performance highlighting  "krump" - the free-flowing, expressive form of street dance that originated in South L.A. 

The show is comprised of multiple vignettes that put a spotlight on krump and other popular street dances - "Chicago footwork," "popping" and "Brooklyn bruk up."

This stage show is produced by dancer and journalist Jessica Koslow, who began studying krump while she was working on a short documentary film and earning her master's degree from USC's Specialized Journalism Arts program.

“My overwhelming mission is to bring street dance to the stage,” said Koslow.

The Underground dance company that choreographed and performs the show was founded by krump icons "Miss Prissy" (Marquisa Gardner) and "Lil' C" (Christopher Toler).

"From the Streets to the Stage" is scheduled for multiple performances throughout the L.A.-area, but Koslow said the show is still a "work in progress."

Most of the crew's performances have been funded by grants or fundraising efforts such as Kickstarter, so set decoration and lighting is minimal and consists mainly of street cones and wooden construction horses.

But it is the dancers that are the main event: Gardner, the "Queen of Krump," is classically trained in multiple forms of dance, from ballet to jazz and tap. She's taught dance, runs her own production company and was featured in the 2005 film Rize, which chronicles the lives of South L.A.'s best krump dancers.

"All I've ever wanted is my own dance company," Gardner told the Los Angeles Times. "Taking the same kids that I danced in the street with all across the world like I've been."

Toler, also profiled in Rize and a longtime friend of Gardner, is a co-choregorapher in The Underground's show and has appeared in music videos from pop, rock and hip-hop stars including Jennifer Lopez, Missy Elliot, Gwen Stefani and Madonna.

The dance troupe has three shows scheduled for Black History Month, including a private event on February 22 at A Place Called Home on Central Avenue.

Koslow said its been somewhat difficult booking the stage performance because krumping dosen't necessarily fit into the perameters of mainstream, modern dance shows.

“I feel like street dance is contemporary and modern, but not in the way that they’re describing it,” Koslow said of many festival organizers.

But The Underground has landed a spot at the Pasadena Dance Festival in late April, and will also be performing their stage show on February 23 at Cal State Long Beach, and on April 5-6 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on Washington Boulevard.

“You'll never see the same show twice,” said Koslow, who added that a lot of the magic happens during freestyle sessions that occur on stage to the beats of a live drummer.

She said the show is constantly evolving as is krumping, but the dance will always be expressive, emotional and energetic.

For more information or to get The Underground's complete schedule, visit their website.

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